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15 crazy space tech ideas that NASA is actually working on

NASA has financed 15 aspiring tech ideas in the hopes that one or more of them may have a vast effect on space science or exploration down the road. The new concepts funded by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program comprise a squid-like amphibious rover that might search icy, ocean-harboring moons for example the Jupiter satellite Europa; a suggestion to mine water from asteroids by means of intense sunlight; and "WindBots" that would voyage through the skies of Jupiter and Saturn, generating energy from the gas giants' magnetic fields and intense winds. Another idea pursues to develop small, inexpensive "crawler," "hopper" and ball-like robots that would work together to hunt water and other unstable materials in permanently shadowed craters close to the poles of the moon. Retrieving these volatiles could be significant to establishing a human existence on the moon, many scientists say.
The 15 concepts were selected under Phase 1 of the NIAC platform. The study teams will each get about $100,000 to accomplish early analyses; they can then apply for a Phase 2 prize, which is means an additional $500,000 and funds two more years of progress. 
An artist's rendering of the squid-like rover. Image Credit: NASA/Cornell University/NSF

The selected ideas, and their chief investigators, are:

·         Virtual Flight Demonstration of Stratospheric Dual-Aircraft Platform (William Engblom, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University)
·         Thirsty Walls: A New Paradigm for Air Revitalization in Life Support (John Graf, NASA's Johnson Space Center)
·         A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By (Michael Hecht, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Haystack Observatory)
·         In-Space Manufacture of Storable Propellants (John Lewis, Deep Space Industries)
·         DEEP IN Directed Energy Propulsion for Interstellar Exploration (Philip Lubin, University of California, Santa Barbara)
·         Triton Hopper: Exploring Neptune's Captured Kuiper Belt Object (Steven Oleson, COMPASS Conceptual Design Team)
·         Soft-Robotic Rover with Electrodynamic Power Scavenging (Mason Peck, Cornell University)
·         Seismic Exploration of Small Bodies (Jeffrey Plescia, Johns Hopkins University)
·         CRICKET: Cryogenic Reservoir Inventory by Cost-Effective Kinetically Enhanced Technology (Jeffrey Plescia, Johns Hopkins University)
·         APIS (Asteroid Provided In-Situ Supplies): 100MT Of Water from a Single Falcon 9 (Joel Sercel, ICS Associates Inc.)
·         WindBots: Persistent In-Situ Science Explorers for Gas Giants (Adrian Stoica, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
·         Thin-Film Broadband Large Area Imaging System (Nelson Tabirian, BEAM Engineering for Advanced Measurements Co.)
·         Aperture: A Precise Extremely large Reflective Telescope Using Re-configurable Elements (Melville Ulmer, Northwestern University)
·         CubeSat with Nanostructured Sensing Instrumentation for Planetary Exploration (Joseph Wang, University of Southern California)
·         Cryogenic Selective Surfaces (Robert Youngquist, NASA's Kennedy Space Center)

You can study more about these concepts here: http://www.nasa.gov/feature/niac-2015-phase-i-selections

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